Kremlin says North Korean leader Kim to meet Putin in Russia on Thursday

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In a photo taken on April 23, 2019 a North Korea Air Koryo Ilyushin Il-76MD aircraft lands in Vladivostok. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crossed the border into Russia on April 24 for a first summit with Vladimir Putin, as Pyongyang seeks closer ties with its traditional ally amid a nuclear deadlock with the United States. (AFP)
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This combination of files pictures made on April 18, 2019, shows portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) taken on December 31, 2014 in Moscow, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un taken on February 27, 2019 in Hanoi. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Kremlin says North Korean leader Kim to meet Putin in Russia on Thursday

  • The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim departed for Russia on Wednesday morning by private train

MOSCOW/VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on Thursday in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok to discuss the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, a Kremlin official said.
The visit is part of Kim’s effort to build foreign support after the breakdown of a second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam in February meant no relief on sanctions for North Korea, analysts said.
The summit will be the first between Putin and the North Korean leader. The nuclear row, and how to resolve it, would be the main item on the agenda, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters.
“In the last few months the situation around the peninsula has stabilized somewhat, thanks in large part to North Korea’s initiatives of stopping rocket testing and closing its nuclear test site,” Ushakov said. “Russia intends to help in any way possible to cement that positive trend.”
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim departed for Russia on Wednesday morning by private train.
Kim is accompanied by senior officials including Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, KCNA said.
Kim’s chief aide, Kim Chang Son, was seen in Vladivostok on Sunday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
Vladivostok is the closest major Russian city to the short stretch of border that Russia and North Korea share and can be reached from the border by train, Kim’s preferred mode of international transport.
Russia has for years been involved in efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program. It was involved in so-called six-party talks — along with North and South Korea, Japan, the United States and China — that were last held in 2009.
“The United States and the international community is committed to the same goal — the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” a US State Department official said when asked about Kim’s latest summit.
“It is Chairman Kim’s commitment to denuclearization upon which the world is focused,” he said.
The spokesman said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun would also continue their dialogue “to bridge any gaps on the way forward‎.”

’POSITIVE PROGRESS’
South Korea’s foreign ministry said it understood the agenda would include Russia-North Korea relations, denuclearization, and regional cooperation.
“Russia shares our viewpoints such as the achievement of complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and the settlement of permanent peace,” foreign ministry spokesman Kim In-chul said in Seoul.
“I hope that the summit will be an opportunity that contributes to positive progress.”
Kim Jong Un is probably looking to prove that he is still sought after by world leaders after the failed Hanoi summit with US President Donald Trump and that he has more options, said Artyom Lukin, a professor at Far Eastern Federal University.
The North Korean leader did not want to look too dependent on Washington, Beijing and Seoul, he said.
“As for Russia, the Putin-Kim summit will reaffirm Moscow’s place as a major player on the Korean peninsula. This meeting is important for Russian international prestige,” Lukin said.
Putin previously held a summit in Russia with Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, in 2002. Kim Jong Il visited Russia again in 2011, when he was hosted by Dmitry Medvedev, the Putin lieutenant who at the time was serving as Russian president.
Online media that monitor North Korea reported that the venue for the summit would be the Far Eastern Federal University, on an island that is connected to the mainland part of Vladivostok by a bridge.
The bridge was built in time for the 2012 Asia-Pacific Cooperation Summit, which took place on the same site.
The sports complex at the university was closed on Tuesday and workers were seen bringing in pieces of furniture, a Reuters TV crew at the site reported. A white tent had been erected next to the sports complex.
Security guards at the entrance to the campus were stopping and searching vehicles as they drove in. There were no signs of preparation at Vladivostok railway station.
However at Khasan, a Russian settlement where the train line crosses the border, the state flags of Russia and North Korea were fluttering from the station building on Tuesday. A set of mobile steps for alighting from a train was positioned on the platform edge.


MH17 crash probe set to name suspects

A pro-Russian separatist stands at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 18, 2014. (REUTERS)
Updated 54 min 39 sec ago
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MH17 crash probe set to name suspects

  • Since 2014, some 13,000 people have been killed in the war in the east, which erupted after a popular uprising ousted Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin president and Russia annexed Crimea

THE HAGUE: International investigators are on Wednesday expected to announce charges against several suspects in the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine five years ago in an attack which killed all 298 people on board.
The Dutch-led probe has said it will first inform families, and then hold a press conference to unveil “developments in the criminal investigation” into the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.
The breakthrough comes nearly a year after the investigators said that the BUK missile which hit the plane had originated from a Russian military brigade based in the southwestern city of Kursk.
The airliner traveling between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur was torn apart in mid-air on July 17, 2014 over territory in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists.
Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister Olena Zerkal told Interfax-Ukraine news agency on Tuesday that four people would be named over MH17, including senior Russian army officers.
“The names will be announced. Charges will be brought, Zerkal said, adding that a Dutch court would then “start working to consider this case.”
Zerkal added that the transfer of weapons like the BUK anti-aircraft missile system “is impossible without the (Russian) top brass’s permission” and said others would have been involved beyond those being charged.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the attack — which includes Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine — has declined to confirm that it will announce charges.
The Netherlands and Australia said last May that they formally “hold Russia responsible” for the disaster, after the findings on the origin of the missile were announced. Of the passengers who died, 196 were Dutch and 38 were Australian.
Moscow has vehemently denied all involvement.
Dutch broadcaster RTL, quoting anonymous sources, said the suspects could be tried in absentia as Russia does not extradite its nationals for prosecution.
“I expect there will be important new information. That means the inquiry is advancing,” Piet Ploeg, president of a Dutch victims’ association who lost three family members on MH17, was quoted as saying by broadcaster NOS on Friday.
“It’s the first step to a trial.”
Investigative website Bellingcat said separately it will also name “individuals linked to the downing of MH17” on Wednesday. It said its reporting was “totally independent and separate from the JIT’s investigation.”

The JIT said last year that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 53rd anti-aircraft brigade based in Kursk, but that they were still searching for suspects.
They showed videos and animation of the BUK launcher as part of a Russian military convoy, using video clips found on social media and then checked against Google Maps, as it traveled from Kursk to eastern Ukraine.
Investigators said they had also identified a ‘fingerprint’ of seven identifying features that were unique to the BUK including a military number on the launcher.
Russia insisted last year that the missile was fired by Kiev’s forces, adding that it was sent to Ukraine in the Soviet era and had not been returned to Russia.
The Netherlands said it would study the information but added that details previously provided by Russia — such as the alleged presence of a Ukrainian jet near the airliner on radar images — were incorrect.
Ties between Moscow and The Hague were further strained last year when the Dutch expelled four alleged Russian spies for trying to hack into the Dutch-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The war in eastern Ukraine and the MH17 disaster continue to plague relations between Russia and the West.
Since 2014, some 13,000 people have been killed in the war in the east, which erupted after a popular uprising ousted Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin president and Russia annexed Crimea.
Kiev and its Western backers accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms to back the separatists. Moscow has denied the claims despite evidence to the contrary.